In the past year, you may have noticed that a handful of social networks recently started rolling out a “stories” function, similar to the one Snapchat originally brought to popularity. Facebook, the king of social media, recently entered the space and is performing surprisingly poorly.
Facebook’s sloppy roll-out of the story functionality likely won’t take the social platform down, but it goes to show that although Facebook still has nearly two billion monthly users, there are some chinks in its armor.
Facebook’s quest to take down Snapchat can be traced to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $3 billion offer to buy the platform in 2013, and this pursuit has turned into a full blown strategic onslaught to pull Snapchat’s users from underneath them.
Facebook stories, however, seems to be a swing and a miss…for now. During Facebook’s first quarter earnings report of 2017, Mark Zuckerberg even stated “We’re going to keep putting video at the center of all of these services.” It’s no shocker that Instagram has kept building out its video capabilities with updates such as the ability to post longer videos, and the new Instagram stories feature.
By adding the Stories component to their platform, Facebook has essentially blurred the vision of what the behemoth social network should be used for, losing a sense of self in the process.
Too Big to Completely Fail, but Not Too Big to Fail Sometimes
Facebook’s launch of their Snapchat clone is further proof that just because a platform has a massive amount of daily users, it does not guarantee them success for any new products. Similar to how Google+ failed to replicate the social media networks that came before it, Facebook is headed in the same direction with their Story functionality.
Additionally, Facebook’s failure to successfully clone Snapchat serves to support the notion that Facebook isn’t going to bring it down any time soon.
Every time you open Facebook’s mobile app, you will see Facebook Stories hovering on top of the news feed. With over 1.71 billion monthly active users and 1.13 billion daily active users, you would expect to see a significant amount of people using Stories.
But that is just simply not the case.
Snapchat, by comparison, had 161 million daily active users at the end of 2016.
What is worth mentioning here is the underlying purpose of the two platforms. Snapchat – even though it has little over 14% of Facebook’s daily users – is used almost exclusively to send, receive, and view story content. Such is not the case with Facebook.
While it may just seem like an extra feature that users may or may not use, even just the presence of the stories functionality taking up space at some of the most valuable real estate on the Internet could be costing Facebook billions in missed revenue (or the release of a feature that users will actually use).
This marquee feature is the first thing the mobile eye sees, but people are refusing to use it – not out of a boycott or anything of the sort, but of pure disinterest.
The Photo and Video Sharing Market is Oversaturated
Everybody from the content creators to content consumers is exhausted with having to deal with multiple different avenues that are otherwise identical for their content distribution and consumption.
The average social media user accesses a series of social media platforms for specific purposes.
Prior to Facebook’s onslaught of Snapchat, user’s needs were kept relatively segmented. People would post quick thoughts on Twitter, more extended content on Facebook, pictures on Instagram, and day-to-day photos and videos on Snapchat.
Snapchat provided a novelty in that users could send each other pictures and videos, and was embraced by millions of users for that purpose. When Instagram copied Snapchat’s functionality, social media users who would otherwise use both platforms were put into a weird situation.
Users would want to use both platforms for distributing their identical content. But now, what used to take a few seconds to snap a picture and click share started to take much longer in order to coordinate and post the content on two different platforms.
Things were confusing enough…and then Facebook rolled out an identical functionality native to the Facebook platform.
A claim could be made that Facebook Stories was launched in order to water down the demand for a photo and video sharing service as a strategic attempt to weaken the user foundation around Snapchat. If this is the case, however, it is unclear if Facebook will be receiving a substantial return on its investment, as it is taking a substantial risk of driving its own users away from the app.
Facebook vs. Snapchat
The Facebook vs. Snapchat narrative has become almost comical in recent years. Facebook originally released an app called Poke in 2012 that allowed users to send messages that disappear automatically, but shut the app down in 2014. In 2013, Instagram launched Instagram Direct, which allowed users to privately message each other.
This past half decade has been a Tom & Jerry chase where Facebook has been trying to snuff out Snapchat through a series of strategic plays – and has been having a surprisingly difficult time in doing so.
Each of Facebook’s attempts to take down Snapchat revolve around trying to imitate or distract from Snapchat’s core features:
- It’s messages automatically disappear after a certain period of time.
- It’s a private network, and there are no public favorites, likes, or comments.
Facebook stories is a transmutation attempt to create a certain sort of intimate platform, similar to peer to peer photo and video sharing service…except Facebook users are inherently unwilling to share the same sort of potentially intimate content they use Snapchat for.
Though there may not be any tangible harm to the Facebook brand – yet – this feature is one of the only memorable failures for the social media giant.
The biggest threat that Stories poses is it is further turning Facebook into a confusing social nightmare. The service has been around for more than 13 years, and with so many new features it isn’t exactly clear what users are supposed to do.
Facebook is slowly starting to turn into a Frankenstein-like social network, mashing together some of the main features of several different platforms. So, how will this all play out for the platforms involved?
While existing Snapchat users are loyal to the platform, new demographics are beginning to adapt to video and photo messaging functionality. The reason Snapchat has had an edge of Facebook is because Snapchat users skew younger and adapted earlier. Facebook, on the other hand, is home of older demographics. As these older demographics continue to adapt to video and photo messaging, they will likely start creating, and engaging with, story content on their existing platform of choice, Facebook.
Also, don’t be surprised if Facebook soon allows for the cross-posting of Stories from Instagram. A consolidation tactic like this would be very appealing to part-time users tired of juggling content across platforms. This convenience factor paired with the extended reach it would provide could win over once exclusive Snapchat users.
In closing, Facebook Stories might be an initial failure, but I wouldn’t count it out just yet.